Written by Andrew Lwanga, Edited by Sasha Macmillen
Nestled close to the adriatic coast and a literal stone’s throw away from the home of the greatest rider to ever swing a leg over a motorcycle, MotoGP rides into the microstate of San Marino for the appropriately named Gran Premio Di San Marino E Della Riviera Di Rimini. Or San Marino Grand Prix if you’re no fun at parties.
Set to host the ever popular race is the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli. Designed in 1969 and inaugurated in 1972, the Misano World Circuit has gone through many iterations over the decades. However the current clockwise configuration which bears local hero Marco Simoncelli’s name runs for 4.180 kilometres. An ever-exciting track despite the little to no elevation change, the circuit is thus characterised by its 16 corners, 10 of which turn to the right and the remaining six to the left. With the ever evolving enginuity and primal daring bravery that marks a modern day grand prix rider almost every curve on this circuit could be categorised as an overtaking opportunity.
Francesco Bagnaia rolls into the weekend with the momentum of Italy’s best performing motorsport athlete. After appearing to be down and out after a crash in the German round in the Sachsenring, “Pecco” has rebounded in impeccable fashion taking all three wins since his aforementioned crash. This turn in fortunes and form has seen Bagnaia close the gap from over 90 points in Germany to just 44 heading into San Marino. With seven races left it would be safe to say the Ducati man is well within championship contention heading into his master’s backyard.
Standing in Bagnaia’s way is the reigning and defending world champion, Fabio Quartararo. It has been a torrid season for Yamaha, the japanese marque has lost customer team RNF to Aprilia and Franco Morbidelli’s campaign with the factory outfit has so far been one to forget. However, Quartararo has remained the ever present ray of sunshine at Yamaha, the frenchman;s mercurial form and consistency has seen him maintain a championship lead despite competing on seemingly inferior machinery. With Bagnaia hot on his heels however it is imperative for Quartararo to not only score a strong result but beat the Italian in order to maintain a comfortable margin. With seven races left in the championship a 44 point lead is far from comfortable in Grand Prix Motorcycle racing.
Despite a tumultuous pair of rounds in Silverstone and Austria, suffering an injury in the former Aleix Espargaro remains second place in the rider’s standings. Going into Misano it goes without saying that a great result is of prime importance as it pertains to his championship aspirations. What is unique for Espargaro however is he is in danger of ceding second place to Bagnaia as the Italian is closer to him than he is to the championship lead. If the Spaniard's and Aprilia’s Cinderella story of a season is to have a happy ending then a win at San Marino would be the perfect way to kick off the third act.
The Misano World Circuit bore witness to the emergence of Bagnaia as a championship contender last season. A few rounds later the same circuit was host to Fabio Quartararo’s crowning moment after Bagnaia crashed from the lead. This year it is without a doubt that the Adriatic coast will once again be witness to another pivotal moment in the story of Grand Prix Motorcycle racing.